Purse Strings – July

“By Design”

In just 7 short years, Erinn Valencich, founder and owner of Erinn V Design Group, has emerged as one of the most highly sought after interior designers in Beverly Hills. In addition to her appearances as a style expert on Extra!, The View and Fine Living Network, Erinn is the resident decorating expert on eHow.com. Whether designing elegant mansions, signature television show sets or hosting Home and Garden Television specials like “Celebrity Holiday Homes” and “Light It Up!,” Erinn brings her natural talent and incredible sense of style to everything she does. She recently took time out of her hectic schedule to share some of her secrets to success with Wiles. Here’s what she had to say about building and maintaining a creative, consultative business.

Wiles: WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND? HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN DESIGN?

EV: I’m originally from Northern California. I was raised on a farm outside Sacramento, which had lots of space and really fostered my independent spirit as a child. After moving to Los Angeles as a teenager, I knew that I wanted to jump right in to the workplace after high-school – which I felt would be my best education. At 18, I started working as an assistant for an entrepreneurial, lifestyle expert. While working there, I helped to design product lines, produced two design books with Simon & Schuster and learned a ton about self-promotion and marketing. After working with her for 6 years, I decided to focus on interiors and take on private clients with my own business.

Wiles: HOW DID YOU BUILD YOUR BUSINESS?

EV: When developing any new business, investing time and focus on your marketing materials and marketing plan is very important. Promoting the business to your potential client base is the most important element to grow any new business, particularly a consultative one. Interior design is a visual business, so it’s important to have something visual to show people that speaks to your overall aesthetic. Everything must reflect a quality aesthetic. I invested in a great-looking website and business cards that reflected my style. I also designed a visually compelling postcard to announce my company and mailed them to about 300-500 magazine editors making myself available for tips and trend articles they may be writing. My first big break came when USA Today called and interviewed me as a result of that postcard. I used the same post card to send to potential clients, but changed the text, making it applicable to that audience.
When it comes to maintaining and growing the business, I’m careful about staying in touch with past clients. When you work independently, it’s important to continually drive business and take advantage of every opportunity. [Positive] word of mouth is critical because every job leads to the next job. I regularly inform [contacts in] my database about what we’ve been doing through email blasts. Self-promotion is the most important aspect of growing your business.

Wiles: WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO SERVING AND MANAGING CLIENTS?

EV: Initially, I like to sit down with clients and flip through a binder of images to help them start to voice their likes and dislikes. By the end of that process, I tend to have three to six tear-sheets of spaces and items the clients love, which helps us discuss the end goal, and I walk away with a great sense of what they like and don’t like from this process.
With any project management-focused business, it’s also important to be upfront with clients. From the beginning, you should let them know that a lot of time and work goes into the design process, and most space will go through an “ugly duckling phase” when you’re mixing new items coming into with old ones still there. During that phase, clients may sometimes doubt the direction we’ve chosen. You have to ease clients through this transition. Many people fear change. I love it, which is why I think I am good at my job and changing environments is exciting to me. Remind them to trust the decisions they made in the beginning, recognize that transforming a space is a process and, above all, assure them that, in the end, your collective vision will come together beautifully.

Wiles: DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS.

EV: I always start in the room clients want to start in, because I like clients to tell me what they don’t or do like about a space. I take detailed notes so that I can put together a specific battle plan for each space – knowing what they want to keep, versus what they want to change, and what elements will help make the space complete. Color is the unifying element of any space, so beginning with a great color palette is essential, as well.

Wiles: DESCRIBE HOW YOU JUGGLE MULTIPLE PROJECTS.

EV: Good time management skills are an absolute must. Personally, I’m a big fan of having a thorough to-do list, and, every morning, I identify which projects absolutely need to be completed. Learning to become more effective and efficient is an ongoing process, and leveraging current technology like smart phones can really help. Nowadays, we can take a photo of an item and send it to a client for their immediate feedback – which saves a significant amount of time.

Wiles: WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR CAREER?

EV: I enjoy creating spaces for my clients that they love. Once a client hosts their first party in their new home, and their friends come over and love what we’ve done, they’re so excited. It’s rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone transform their space to the point that they want to open up their home to friends and family. Entertaining at home, whether a soccer party for your kids or a fancy cocktail party for co-workers really opens up your life.

Wiles: MOST PEOPLE THINK OF FASHION WHEN THEY THINK OF STYLE. HOW DO THE SPACES WE WORK AND LIVE IN REFLECT OUR PERSONAL STYLE?

EV: There’s a tremendous correlation between fashion and the home. When it comes to dressing your home, we don’t do it every day, so most people don’t feel quite as secure about that as they do with their fashion sensibilities. When considering making changes to your current interior design, decide what kind of space you want to live in. Then, find the images that inspire you and that are important to you. Trust in what you like. Everyone doesn’t like the same thing and that’s okay.

Wiles: HOW DO YOU DEFINE “GOOD TASTE?”

EV: Good taste is that intangible knack for pulling things together and making a space feel chic and unique. Good taste is all about personalization. It has everything to do with taking risks and picking out items that you think are unique, and add texture and interest. Be different. That’s what will make people want to explore your space.

Wiles: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO MAY WANT TO PURSUE A CAREER IN INTERIOR DESIGN?

EV: It’s so important to know what you like. Practice designing in your own home, and once you’re ready to present it to others, take pictures and put together elements and images into a look book of what you love that you can show potential clients.

Always present yourself in a way that is stylish. Remember: clients are hiring you for your sense of style, so make sure you are presenting your style visually – in every way. Make sure that you, as their potential designer, are put together and really chic.

[learn_more caption="Learn More" state="open"]For more information about Erinn Valencich and Erinn V Design Group, please visit:
www.erinnv.com and stay tuned for the launch of ErinnVmaison.com – an online retail store – later this fall.
Wanna win a free makeover from Erinn Valencich? Erinn has recently partnered with Quickstepstyle.com – an online resource offering budget-friendly design tips – to bring her celebrity style to your abode. To enter into the contest to win a free makeover from Erinn, check out all of the details at:www.myfoxal.com or
www.facebook.com/quickstepflooring.[/learn_more]

 

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